Rescuing Dutch

2014-06-10 09.45.06--FB 6-13-14The dog in the photo peeking out the window is one of the bravest dogs you will ever meet. Because he did something that he knew he should not do. He let a stranger into his home.

This brave boy is Dutch.  An 8 year-old, 60 pound Keeshond rescued six years ago. And with every reason to not trust again. But when he met Francis, a long-haul truck driver, everything changed. And since that day these two best friends have traveled the country together. As Francis said, “Dutch is my one and only. We’re a team.”

But at that moment Dutch did not know why a stranger was suddenly at his door trying to get inside. He did not know that his dad Francis lay in an emergency room awaiting surgery. All Dutch knew was that he’d been alone all night. And now someone was there calling his name. Someone he did not know.

Francis arrived at the hospital the night before and in a lot of pain. He was not sure what was wrong but he knew it wasn’t good. Still he was hopeful he’d get in, get checked and get back to his truck parked at the truck stop ten miles away. Where Dutch was.

Because when you’re 1,700 miles from home you don’t want to think about ending up in an emergency room. So when he left his truck he told his best friend he’d be back in a couple of hours. But that’s not what happened.

Because those two hours turned into a lot more when he was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery. Lying in his hospital bed all he could do was think about Dutch. About how scared he must be alone in the truck. He had food. He had water. But he didn’t have Francis.

This stoic and pensive United States Veteran that carries the same name as the Patron Saint of Animals spoke softly and measured his words carefully. He had faced fear many times before. But this time his greatest fear was not his own pending surgery. His greatest fear was what would happen to Dutch.

In frustration he told the emergency room staff: “I don’t care if you have to cut off my whole leg. Just let my dog be ok.”

The next morning as he learned he was not leaving anytime soon he told his ER physician that his dog was still in his truck and he was worried sick about him. And with the sun coming up he knew he needed to get help because it was going to be a warm day.

His ER physician was named Sarah. And with every bit of good luck on his side at that moment it turned out that Sarah knew all about The Pongo Fund.

But she didn’t just know about it casually. Sarah is part of The Pongo Fund.  One of an elite group of volunteers that do all they can when they can to help people and pets through the toughest of times. And this was definitely one of those times.

What Sarah really wanted to do was leave the hospital and head to the truck stop and get Dutch. But she could not because a school shooting had just occurred moments earlier and her ER stood ready for victims.

Instead she turned to the group that she herself gives her time to. She turned to The Pongo Fund.

This is what she said: “I have a patient who’s a truck driver passing through. He’s going to need to stay in the hospital for a couple days and his dog is in his rig at the truck stop. He hasn’t been out since about 10pm last night….how can we help?”

This story will be continued.

Posted on  by Larry Chusid


Part 2: Dutch Is Safe

2014-06-10 09.50.57--FB 6-14-14The Pongo Fund has a fantastic group of exceptional volunteers. We have a Pet Food Bank. An Emergency Kibble Response Team. A Pongo to the Rescue Team. A Spay-Neuter Team. A Pongo Meals on Wheels Team. We truly have so very much to be thankful for.

But with everything we do have, what we don’t have is a Rescue a Dog from a Truck Team. That is, not until now.

Shortly after Sarah, the Emergency Room physician and Pongo volunteer, alerted The Pongo Fund to a dog in danger we were on our way to the emergency room to talk with Francis. We needed to learn everything we could about Dutch. Most importantly, how would Dutch react when a total stranger tried to enter his truck?

At the hospital Francis said Dutch was a totally sweet boy. But he admitted he did not know for sure what his 60 pound friend would do when a total stranger tried to enter his truck. And that was our main concern.

Francis was frustrated because he desperately wanted to help. But he could not walk and he could not leave and he knew the only help he could offer was hope and prayers. And then we were off, because we needed to reach Dutch as quickly as possible.

Truck stops are big places. The one where Francis had parked his rig was more than five acres in size. And that meant hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trucks and trailers. And to the untrained eye many of them looked similar.

With luck on our side, just 30 minutes after leaving Francis at the hospital we found the truck. The windows were open enough to call out to Dutch, who was likely sleeping on the bed in the cab. So as not to startle him, we softly called his name.

“Dutch.” “Dutch.” “Dutchie.” “Good morning Dutch.”

Slowly, a giant ball of fur moved to the driver’s seat. He moved cautiously. He moved in a way that said he was not sure what was going on. And that he knew this stranger was not Francis.

An arm went up to the window for him to sniff. He stepped closer. He sniffed once. He sniffed twice. Several times he sniffed just to be sure. Back and forth he went. And then he sat down and stared.

He did not bark. He did not growl. After several moments of intense sniffing he simply sat down quietly. For some reason he seemed content. Maybe that’s because the stranger at the window was me. And before I left my house I had Scooby roll around in my clothes.  Because no one can resist Scooby.

Scooby, my almost 20-year-old mix of Beagle, Bassett, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama was the very first friend that Dutch smelled. It was Pongo to the Rescue and Scooby to the Rescue!

The next moment was truly rewarding. Because Dutch sat perfectly still and allowed the door to be opened. I slowly reached inside and gave him some neck scratchies and gently attached a leash to his collar. And then together we stepped back down to the ground.

We then walked a few feet to the first shrub we saw and after holding it all night, he peed his first pee in nearly 12 hours. And he sure did have to go!

Moments later he jumped into the back of my car and off we went. I watched him in the rear view mirror as we drove off. He was sitting up and staring out the window. But a few moments later I suddenly could not see him. I stretched my neck as far as I could and I found him. He was curled up in a ball on Scooby’s car bed. Sound asleep.

And that’s when I called Francis and told him I had Dutch. And that everything was ok.

This story will be continued.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

Part 3: Welcome To Sniff

2014-06-11 16.07.41--FB 6-16-14A few days ago a long-haul truck driver passing through Portland was rushed to the emergency room. Once there he learned he was being admitted for emergency surgery. Alone and 1,700 miles from home it was just him and his dog and the rig they rode in.

But his greatest fear was not his own health. It was the dog that stayed behind. The next morning he told his ER physician that his dog Dutch was all alone and had been there all night. With the sun coming up and a warm day forecast, he didn’t know what to do.

Luckily his physician is part of the elite group of volunteers that make up The Pongo Fund. This multi-part story tells what happened from that moment forward as we quickly stepped in to find that truck and to rescue Dutch.

With Dutch curled up and sound asleep in the back of my car I called Francis to let him know that his best friend was safe. And when I gave him the good news there was a pause. A long pause. A pause that made me think he had not heard me. So I said it again. Dutch is with me and he’s safe.

But I was wrong. I didn’t need to repeat it. “I heard you the first time,” Francis said. I just couldn’t speak for a moment.” And as he said those words, I heard the crack in his voice. Then he cleared his throat. He said thank you. And he quickly got off the phone because this United States Veteran did not want me to hear him cry.

It was a special moment. Because at the very same moment I was talking with Francis, just a few feet behind me was Dutch curled up on Scooby’s bed. He was snoring softly. He was content. I was surrounded by the love of this team, Francis and Dutch. And with few audible words or sounds, they both let me know how much this moment meant.

As the saying goes it takes a village. And The Pongo Fund is blessed to have a great village of friends. Every single one of you reading this story is part of that village. Far too many people and businesses to name individually. What we do, we do because of you. We do it with you. We do it together.

Sniff Dog Hotel is part of our village. They help us whenever they can, always quick to remind us to let them know when they can help us again. So when I was on my way to get Dutch I made the call to Sniff. Because I needed to know that Dutch would have a safe and comfortable place to stay.

Without hesitation, their answer was yes. Jamie, one of the Sniff owners, said to bring Dutch over, that they had a perfect room waiting for him.

When Dutch arrived at Sniff he didn’t know what to think. His Dad was in the emergency room, but he didn’t know that. He just knew his Dad was not there. And here was this new place filled with new people and new smells. But he handled it with grace. He stood quietly, wagging his tail softly as he gently smelled his new surroundings.

No one knew Dutch at that point and he certainly didn’t know any of us. But it was a moment of mutual trust. The Sniff staff greeted him by name and escorted him to his room. And he happily followed.

And what a room it was.

A large view suite with a floor to ceiling window, looking north toward a freeway bridge filled with trucks just like the one he and his Dad ride in. And the best part is that in the distance his view faced the very hospital that his Dad was staying in.

There were dual food bowls for food and water, both elevated for ease of eating. And an elevated bed. A bed that Dutch jumped onto immediately. He’d had a big morning and now it was time to rest.

I made another call to Francis to let him know that Dutch was settled and was staying at Sniff Dog Hotel. Francis chuckled. He said “a hotel?” I said yes. He said “a hotel for dogs? I said yes. “Really? I’ve never heard of that.” And I said it was the very best kind of hotel.

And then I described Dutch’s room with a view looking north toward the hospital he was at and his voice grew quiet and made that cracking sound again. But this time I knew he had heard me. And I knew what that cracking sound was. It meant that once again this proud and stoic United States Veteran was choking back tears of joy.

I wished him a great day and told him I’d check back in later to see how he was doing. Because later that day he would be heading into his own surgery.

I got home and told Scooby the entire story as he busily smelled Dutch on my clothes. Scooby knew what had happened and I know he was proud to have played a role in helping this sweet boy that began his day all alone and 1,700 miles from home.

But the best part was that he was alone no more. He had his own village of new friends. He had me. He had Scooby. And he had the entire team at Sniff.

And then Scooby got lots of treats and belly scratchies too.

I visited Dutch again later that day and took him for a walk. He had only been there a few hours but was already wagging his tail when they brought him out to see me. Together we explored the neighborhood and then it was back to Sniff for his dinner and a well-deserved night of rest. A night that would be far different than the night before.

When he returned his new Sniff friend Leslie was waiting for him. He jumped onto her lap as the photo shows. Francis was out of surgery. And Dutch had a lap to rest his head on. He was home. And it was a good day.

This story will be continued.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

Posted on  by Larry Chusid


Part 4: The Journey Continues

2014-06-10 10.46.55-2--FB 6-17-14What a day for Dutch! Just a few hours earlier he was all alone locked inside his truck having spent the entire night there all by himself. He didn’t have a clue where his Dad was, unaware that he was lying in an emergency room awaiting surgery.  All he knew was that something clearly was not right.

And now just hours after being rescued he was in the lap of luxury at Sniff Dog Hotel with a floor to ceiling window that offered a view of the very hospital his Dad was in.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Dutch thought of how his day had turned out. What was he thinking?

But the truth is I already knew the answer. Because he was saying thank you with every wag of his tail. With each moment that he looked into my eyes he was saying thank you. I knew he knew. And I understood him clearly.

I’ve always believed that our animal friends are far smarter than we are. And that they know much more than we give them credit for. Aside from the goofy things they do that we really don’t understand, I know you know it too. They don’t need computers to tell us. They do it the old fashioned way. With love.

They know what’s good. They know what’s not good. And to earn their trust is one of the greatest gifts ever. Dutch trusted me because I smelled like Scooby, my almost 20 year-old mix of Beagle, Bassett, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. Dutch also knew I was there to help. And that trust was the foundation for everything to come.

Some people say that dogs aren’t smart enough to talk. I disagree. I think they are plenty smart and they show it by not talking. At least not in a language we understand. But they really do communicate just fine.

Maybe the truth is we’re just too stubborn to accept how well they do things. And that frustrates us. Just as we’re frustrated by how gracefully they manage to ignore the minutiae and the drama and the grudges and the petty strife that we people stumble over each day.

They don’t text with anger or post nasty comments on Facebook about traffic jams or bad service in restaurants. They focus on what’s important. Because they know that life is a balance. Be good. Do good. Isn’t it really just that simple?

And that’s why I knew that Dutch would be ok spending his first night in a new place. Because he was one of the special ones. One of the wonderful dogs that we all secretly long to be. If even only for a moment.

Most of all, I knew that he knew he was loved. And after a day that would challenge anyone I knew that the love he felt was the ultimate gift. As I drove away after taking Dutch on one last walk for the day I reached for the phone to call Francis.

Because just a few hours earlier he was in surgery and I knew that the best news he could hear right now was another update telling him that Dutch was safe and well and settled in for the night. And I also wanted him to know that he was not forgotten. That we were there for him too. Him and Dutch.

Francis is a man of few words. Even more so after his surgery. But he still enjoyed hearing about how Dutch was doing. And if nothing else I knew he would rest more comfortably and dream sweeter dreams knowing that his sweet boy was safe and happy and well.

I knew that they both needed plenty of rest because the next day would be a big day for each of them. Francis would likely wake to some pain and concern and look forward to good news. And Dutch would wake to breakfast, a walk, a brushing, a bath, another brushing, another walk and lots and lots of love.

It would be a healing day for Francis. It would be a healing day for Dutch. And it really did turn out to be a very good day for both of them.

This story will be continued.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

Posted on  by Larry Chusid


Part 5: It’s Almost Time To Say Goodbye

2014-06-13 17.01.00Nine days in a Portland hospital for a Minnesota long-haul trucker named Francis. And missing his dog every step of the way.

As he lay in that lonely hospital bed all he could think about was the dog he loved. The dog that was his constant trucking and traveling companion. The dog that had been alone in his truck all night long.

But in the midst of bad came good. Because thankfully his ER physician was Sarah, one of the core group of incredible volunteers that make up The Pongo Fund. And shortly after Francis mentioned his dire situation to Sarah, The Pongo Fund was on the way.

A man and his dog 1,700 miles from home facing potentially the worst of times. But instead a group of people rallied around these two kind souls. Together we have rooted for them and we have cared for them and they have felt the love from the hundreds of thousands that have followed their story.

While Francis remains hospitalized Dutch has filled his days with a daily schedule of walks and spa visits and sunbathing and naps and two different playgroups. But most of all his days have been filled with love.

He has made friends everywhere. On his daily walks every tree, every leaf, every single thing has become a friend. He walks with his head held high and greets every one he sees. Even if only for a moment because he wants to be sure that nothing is forgotten.

Just ask Miles, the 16 year-old blind and deaf Maltese that joined Dutch for a walk. Or Zoey the Poodle or Belle the Boxer or Frankie the Labrador. Each one of them became walking buddies as Dutch strolled through the neighborhood.

And every step of the way his tail wags as he learns about a place he never knew before. Surrounded by people he’s only known briefly. Yet he embraces all of it with a zest and a verve that would make the bravest explorer proud.

But no one has loved him more during these past nine days than the team at Sniff Dog Hotel. Because each and every one of them has stepped forward to make sure that he never felt alone.

Several of them have even spent their break times curled up with him. Petting him. Talking to him. Just being with him. Letting him know he is loved. And Dutch has returned that love many times over.

He has reminded us of the strength of spirit that we all hold within. A spirit that just waits for a chance to sparkle.  And this past week this brave boy has sparkled big time.  And every single person that has been part of his story is the better for it.

At least once each day I rejoice in giving Francis an update. A few days ago, the day after his own surgery and when the frustration of his situation was settling in, I told him about Dutch’s day.

About how Dutch had a bath and how he’d had two different playgroups and how I’d taken him on a special walk and how he’d met a little tiny Chihuahua named Sophie and how he’d kissed her ever so softly and how Sophie had tried to climb onto his back for a ride and how Dutch almost seemed to giggle as that happened.

I told him all of these things so that he would not feel forgotten. So that he too could celebrate the great moments and good fortune that had brought all of us together.

And as I shared, Francis just kept saying thank you. Over and over again he said thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. But he also said he didn’t know what he had done to deserve this.

So I reminded him that at some point in his life he must have done some exceptional things for others and this was how the universe was repaying him. By allowing us to be there for him to care for the most important friend he has. His one and only Dutch.

There was a long pause. And his voice began to do that cracking thing again.

Then Francis said one of the nicest things that anyone has ever said to me.

He said “You’re an Angel. All of you are Angels. I know that you were sent here to look after Dutch and me and I just can’t thank you enough.”

And now it was my turn for my voice to crack a little. Because I was stunned to receive such a deeply meaningful compliment from a man I didn’t know who has a dog I have grown to love as my very own.

And the best part is that this wonderful compliment was not just for me. It was for all of us.

I am thrilled to tell you that Dutch continues to do great. Today he’ll enjoy another fantastic Sniff day filled with naps and playtime and walks and good food and lots of love. Later this week he will enjoy his first massage, compliments of Rubi Sullivan at Heal Animal Massage. And then he’ll head out with some of the Pongo Team for a day of exploring local parks.

And with more good news Francis continues to get better as well. And as he improves, their time in Portland will soon come to an end. Meaning that it won’t be long until we say Godspeed to these two truckers as they hit the road again.

Together each and every one of us near and far has been here for Dutch and Francis. From a single moment in time a group of people have rallied together with names like Sarah and Sniff and Howard and Jamie and Casey and Jim and Leslie and Josh and Rubi and Pongo and so many more.

We have made our home their home. We have made them feel welcome. And my hope is that someday they will look back on these days and know that they were cared for by people who loved them.

And if that makes us Angels, then I am proud to be an Angel. And I invite all of you to join me too. We shall all be Angels together.

This story will be continued.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.

Part 6: The Reunion

brush_logo_web_The_Pongo_Fund_Dutch__BNP7585-Edit (2)Happy tears and sad tears come from the same place. And we shed them both in abundance yesterday as we said goodbye to Dutch and Francis.

Ten days after tragedy was averted when Dutch was rescued from the cab of the long-haul truck he shares with Francis when Francis ended up in the emergency room, they were reunited.

It was just a few seconds before this photo was taken that Dutch entered the lobby at Sniff Dog Hotel. Just as he had many times before during the past 10 days when he would find me happily waiting to take him for a walk.

But this time it was different. This time he instead found a whole group of people in the lobby including a photographer, a television cameraman and several Sniff employees. And across the room he found his Dad.

It took him just a moment to realize what was happening. But once he saw Francis nothing else mattered. And he ran straight for him.

That single moment in time is the very moment that each one of us had been looking forward to since we first rescued Dutch 10 days earlier.

He was all alone in his truck and had been alone all night. The sun was coming up and filling his truck with warmth. Far too much warmth for safety. And now there was a stranger at his door calling his name. That stranger was me.

But with complete trust and bravery he allowed me to open that door, to give him some neck scratchies and attach Scooby’s leash to his collar. And that is how I met Dutch for the first time.

And now ten days later this sweetest Keeshond, a big guy that I have grown to love as my very own, was seeing his Dad for the first time.

He happy danced his way across the lobby and jumped up gently to kiss his face. With paws extended he stretched for the face that he knows.  A face that surely tasted salty with both happy and sad tears together. And then he kissed the face that he loved.

He then wiggled his way into a far too small area next to his Dad just so he could be closer. Just so he could be a lap dog and once again lay his head on the lap of the man he had not seen for 10 days of human time.

Then it hit him. As he surveyed the room he really seemed to take it all in. And then he sighed the kind of sigh that said the world was right again.

But then Dutch saw Jim, Francis’s Dad. His Grandpa. And he rocketed off Francis’s lap and rushed to him, standing tall on his hind legs as Jim leaned forward.

And then these two old friends greeted each other in a way I’ll never forget. And those same tears were leaking out of Jim’s eyes too.

Jim, the retired and proud trucker with diesel in his DNA was crying as he leaned forward to kiss the dog he loved. With the son he loved sitting just a few feet away.

It was a moment later that Dutch found me. And I got kisses too. Then he pushed his way deep into my chest and leaned close. Just remaining there for a few moments in the same pose we have held many times during the past 10 days. Because every single walk we had together included some cuddle time.

And I knew what that moment meant. Dutch did too. No words were needed.

The cameraman left. The photographer finished. And then it was just a few of us remaining. Reluctant to say the goodbyes that we knew must be said.

But first Jamie from Sniff Dog Hotel gave Francis, Jim and Dutch the full Sniff tour so they could also see how Dutch had spent the past ten days.

And then Jamie did something that surely made her entire Sniff Team even more proud. With a tremendous gesture of kindness and generosity she cancelled the whole bill for Dutch’s entire 10 day stay.

There was not a single penny due for his view suite and his play groups and his brush outs and his baths and for the countless moments that the Sniff Team put forth to make sure this sweet boy never felt alone. And she sent them on their way with a bag of treats for the road.

But in return they know they received something far more valuable. They received the heartfelt gratitude of a man and his dog that were alone and 1,700 miles from home.

Our entire community received that heartfelt gratitude. Because each one of us were the helpers that made this potentially sad story a happy one.

As Mother Teresa said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

And that’s what we did. Together we reached forward and embraced these two truckers, two-legged and four. And we helped them. And we did it well.

Today let us we look back and proudly share in this moment together. Because what we do, we do together.

And this why we Pongo.

Sit. Stay. Eat. Live.